Friday, 3pm, 30,000ft altitude. “Any refreshments, madam?”
Actually, yes: a Kit Kat, please, and a cappuccino – extra hot, thank you. I’m sitting scrunched up on a one-bag-only airline on my way to Klagenfurt, and dealing with a heavy dose of Sunday-evening blues, even though it’s just approaching the weekend. My snack choices aren’t to be recommended right before starting a strict detox, but years of experience dictate that a bit of chocolate can lift the spirits, and as I am preparing to be locked away like Rapunzel in a resort that time forgot, with virtually no food, I feel completely justified. I meticulously devour the chocolate finger by finger with a surgeon’s precision.
I deduce that the unusual blues are actually dread. I’m en route to the Mayr Clinic (aka FX Mayr & More Health Centre), and I’m not looking forward to this particular spa. But I’ve heard so many good reports, and the repeat guest ratio is so high, I can’t ignore it. A few weeks ago, I asked for an honest opinion from a friend, as I was researching where to book my pre-summer check-in. (This one is a pure vanity exercise, if I’m honest, as I have a five-day slot to address my bloat/puffiness etc before a looming sailing trip on the Mediterranean.) “It’s like staying in an old-school Holiday Inn: you’re not encouraged to talk, and it can get pretty lonely,” explains my confidante. “But darling,” she says, grabbing my hand, “it works. It really works! Look at me...” She stands up from the table and does a little twirl in tight black jeans. She’s just back from her fifth Mayr go: 5.5kg weight loss and four per cent overall body fat reduction. These days she visits twice a year for an MOT.
When we land, there is a little bus waiting to collect the few of us making the transfer to the clinic. Nobody speaks; perhaps they have the Sunday heaviness too? Having heard horror stories about bunk beds, I’m delighted to discover when we arrive that it’s just hearsay – the rooms are perfectly functional and clean.
For dinner, a thick potato soup in the empty restaurant. I wonder if perhaps I’ve missed the night rush. Then to bed – right after tea and Epsom salts for the morning have been delivered to my room.
I’ve woken up with unsightly pieces of tissue paper poking out of my ears – the detritus of a sleepless night. My room faces right onto the village’s single, but very busy, intersection. To my surprise, this almost comatose little Alpine burg has a steady flow of night-time traffic, the sounds of which fill my half-dreams.
I chug down the Epsom salts. Ghastly.
There aren’t many staff on call on Saturdays, I discover as I try to arrange a room switch. The Mayr recommends you arrive on Sunday, so that by the following weekend you’re well and truly on your way to being your saintly, slimmer, sparkling self. I, instead, am here on a Saturday morning – my mistake, but it’s not easy for most of us to find six days to slink away from life to detox, so one does what one can.
Right now, though, I can’t seem to do anything. I want a new room but can’t find anyone to talk to, there are no doctors, I’m not on a programme and, generally, I’m not quite sure what to do with myself.
Until the Epsom salts kick in. They help focus the mind – and definitely focus the next few hours’ bodily activity. Like it or not, I am room-bound. (I’m amused as I ponder how much real estate this column gives to one’s bathroom activities, but I’m afraid they feature heavily in the life of any spa junkie – and even more so here at the Mayr. So if you can’t bear it, turn the page now.)
Thank god there is Wi-Fi in the room. I manage to get Ilana – the gregarious South African who in the lead up to my stay suffered hours of plan changing, micro-managing my trip with no complaint – via e-mail. An hour later I’m in a lovely suite, and have a facial scheduled for the afternoon. For lunch, a light potato soup (with slightly more flavour this time). The afternoon is spent lying in glorious sunshine on the deck by the lake.
More soup for dinner, tea drunk with a spoon, and those Epsom salts again.
It’s the same, Epsom-salt start to the day. I will, however, spare you the details. What I will share is a small but meaningful accomplishment I managed prior to my stay. The Mayr recommends a pre-stay detox – this is explained to me by Margo Marrone, one half of the visionary couple behind The Organic Pharmacy, who has been looking after my alternative health for six months, prescribing a mixture of supplements ranging from B complex to liver and kidney tinctures. So I call her before my trip, and she prepares a three-week pre-Mayr detox for me – a box of supplements, scrubs and tinctures.
“I also suggest you pop along and see me when you get back, and we’ll ease you back into life and support you through the remaining weight loss,” she says. I managed a week – not counting the Kit Kat lapse on the plane, of course – and I think it gave me an incredible headstart to the programme. I’d strongly suggest anyone thinking of a Mayr & More visit undertake a similar approach.
Meanwhile, I’m still in freestyle and in charge of my regime, so decide to venture out for a walk up the mountain just behind the resort. It’s a demanding but totally exhilarating hike. In my suite there’s a lounge area, so I’m now perfectly set, fitness-wise. I’ve begun packing a yoga mat, a yoga DVD and a Pilates ring on every spa trip, to take chance out of the equation. For me, the spa experience can become more of a stress, or even be truly spoilt, if I’m not happy with the level of fitness or variation in classes – like a bad massage therapist can ruin it for someone else. It’s not being type A; it’s just a measure to ensure I get the most out of my stay.
My first appointment is with Dr Tanja Korak, who explains the basic principles of the Mayr Cure. The key tenet championed by Dr Mayr and his disciples – among them Dr Bolvari, who currently heads up the clinic – is that health issues begin and end in the gut. The goal of the detox is therefore a thorough intestinal rehabilitation: protection, cleansing and training. This is primarily done through fasting – only herbal tea, light soups and plenty of water to speed up fluid exchange and to maintain mineral balance. It also gives my intestines an ideal opportunity to process and excrete built-up residues. Here’s how the thinking goes: “The stomach and small intestine, our central assimilation and primary digestive organs, can rid themselves of their contents, thereby fulfulling the most important prerequisite for a healing alleviation: now they can rest and recover, and their deadened sensory organs, whose job it is to inform the intestinal muscles and glands about their workload, can regenerate themselves.”
Tanja then tells me about the “second phase” of the detox diet, in which milk is introduced to the menu twice a day, in the morning and at noon. It is, however, not ingested in quite the usual manner. As Tanja explains, the milk isn’t drunk, but rather it must be thoroughly mixed with saliva in the mouth. So here’s what I have to do: take a bite of “stale, well-dried roll or similar slice of white bread”, and chew – and chew, and chew, and chew – until it becomes a “watery mash in my mouth, sweet to the taste and totally soaked with saliva”. Then I take in some milk – but just a teaspoonful at a time. Only once it’s thoroughly mixed in with the bread mash in my mouth am I allowed to swallow. The idea is for the milk to be broken down, while it’s still in my mouth, by the enzymes in the saliva, so that it doesn’t “burden” my stomach and intestine.
7am. I am so hungry. I’ve been starving since 3am, when my stomach decided to go into protest mode. It’s been almost three days on a liquid fast. I call into Tanja, and she agrees I can have a boiled egg for breakfast – it turns out I also get some barley coffee with rice milk, which is heaven. I feel like I could eat half a dozen eggs this morning – my breakfast is hardly touching the sides of my hunger – but we each have an individually planned diet and the prescriptive cards strictly indicate what we can and cannot have.
My time at The Ashram a couple of months ago has sparked my interest in hiking. There is simply no better way to clear your mind, reconnect with nature and get the heart pumping – all for free. You need nothing but a pair of old trainers, a bottle of water and a map of the climbing routes. So after breakfast it’s a glorious and solitary four-hour hike up the Austrian Alps. I come across some stunning lakes; the sun is hot, the mountains filled with the sound of birds, and butterflies flit everywhere. It’s genuinely magical.
In the afternoon, I have my second appointment with Tanja. My stomach, which is permanently bloated in London, has flattened; but on examination, she can still feel a blockage deep in my colon. I explain the hours I have spent “cleansing” in my bathroom, but she reminds me that my ascending colon is about 25cm long and it takes more than a couple of good sittings to truly detox the gut. “I would like you to do a series of intolerance tests tomorrow,” she says. In the meantime, she sends me for a colonic.
I’m astounded. I’m convinced this blockage can only be the toy in the Kinder egg I swallowed when I was five years old, as there is simply nothing left inside me, apart from my vital organs.
I shuffle upstairs to the clinic section of the Mayr & More. This is the domain owned by a larger-than-life blonde: Helga the appointment co-ordinator.
A massage finishes the day. Lights out at 10pm.
Spa Junkie pays for all her own travel, accommodation and treatments.